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A Guide to Chicago’s Best Cocktail Bars

Chicago – a city of stunning architecture and vibrant culture – is also home to some of the world’s best cocktail bars. With an array of drinks to suit any taste, each bar has its own unique atmosphere.

Mixology is elevated to an art form, with bartenders crafting masterpieces of flavors and visuals. One such spot is The Violet Hour – a speakeasy-style bar in Wicker Park. Here, you can enjoy thoughtfully curated cocktails.

Lost Lake in Logan Square offers a Polynesia-inspired oasis. Amidst vibrant decor and whimsical glassware, you can sip on island-inspired drinks.

Milk Room, a tiny eight-seat bar in Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, is another must-see. Here, you can savor rare and vintage spirits from around the globe. My friend tried a whiskey flight featuring rare finds from decades past – an experience like no other.

Brief history of cocktails in Chicago

Cocktails in Chicago have a long history. It started in the early 19th century. The city’s love for mixology made it overflow with unique and innovative cocktail bars.

During Prohibition, speakeasies popped up. People sought secret places to enjoy their favorite drinks. Bartenders crafted cocktails using homemade ingredients and secret recipes. Some of these speakeasies still exist today. This adds nostalgia to the vibrant cocktail scene.

Recently, the craft cocktail movement has taken over Chicago. Mixologists are constantly experimenting with new flavors and techniques. Molecular mixology and barrel-aged cocktails are popular.

Chicago’s cocktail scene is unique. It uses local and seasonal ingredients. Fruits and herbs come from local farms, giving freshness and supporting farmers.

The Violet Hour is one of Chicago’s oldest cocktail bars. It was named one of the world’s 50 best bars by Drinks International. It’s known for its atmosphere, cocktails, and hospitality.

The cocktail scene in Chicago is amazing. It offers locals and visitors an array of experiences. There’s something for everyone. Toast to the legacy of cocktails in the Windy City!

Factors to consider when choosing a cocktail bar in Chicago

When picking a cocktail bar in Chicago, there are several aspects to consider. Ambiance, bartender expertise, cocktail selection & quality, spot, and the overall experience. Also think about special offers or themed nights that could add an extra layer of fun to your evening.

The Windy City also has a noteworthy history connected to Prohibition. During the 1920s, mixologists crafted clandestine drinks that hid the taste of poor spirits.

With this in mind, head out to explore Chicago’s great cocktail bars. Consider these key elements for a truly memorable experience!

Top 5 cocktail bars in Chicago

Chicago is renowned for its lively nightlife and boasts some of the finest cocktail bars in the country. These places provide a wide-ranging selection of drinks, crafted with skill and creativity. If you’re a cocktail devotee or just after a good night out, check out the top 5 cocktail bars in Chicago:

  • The Aviary: This high-end lounge takes mixology to the next level with its creative and visually-arresting cocktails. From timeless classics to seasonal surprises, every drink at The Aviary is an artwork.
  • The Violet Hour: Concealed behind an unmarked door, this speakeasy offers a unique atmosphere. With its menu of hand-crafted cocktails made from premium ingredients, this bar is a must for any cocktail enthusiast.
  • Lost Lake: Escape to a tropical paradise at Lost Lake. Here, you’ll discover an array of masterfully composed tiki cocktails. Its fun atmosphere and delightful drinks served in unique glassware guarantee a memorable experience.
  • The Berkshire Room: Located in the historic Acme Hotel Company, The Berkshire Room is popular for its classic cocktails with a modern twist. Its cozy and intimate setting makes it the ideal spot for relishing expertly created libations.
  • Billy Sunday: Housed in an old Schlitz tavern, Billy Sunday offers a wide selection of meticulously crafted cocktails inspired by historical recipes. Their commitment to excellence is evident in each drink.

For something really special in Chicago’s cocktail scene, visit these hidden gems:

Revival Food Hall provides a different cocktail experience, housing multiple concepts in one place. This food hall features individual bars with their own specialty drinks, allowing patrons to explore various flavors without leaving.

Did you know The Aviary was founded by renowned chef Grant Achatz and business partner Nick Kokonas? Their culinary knowledge extends into the world of mixology, creating an incredible drinking experience.

Tips for getting the most out of your cocktail bar experience

Exploring Chicago’s cocktail bars can be a delightful experience. To get the most out of it, here’s what to do:

  • Do your research and find the best bars that fit your tastes. Check out reviews, recommendations and ask the locals.
  • Try something different. Don’t just stick to the same drinks. Let the expert mixologists surprise you.
  • Chat with the bartenders. They know lots about ingredients, techniques and can suggest personalized drinks.
  • Go during off-peak hours for more interaction with the staff and to savor your drink.
  • Take in the atmosphere and decor. Many bars put a lot of effort into their unique vibe.

Chicago’s cocktail bars tell a story with drinks and atmosphere. Look out for local ingredients and signature cocktails exclusive to each bar.

On my recent visit to one of Chicago’s cocktail bars, I was amazed at their attention to detail. A bartender shared a cool story of how an old recipe inspired a modern twist on a classic drink. It showed how these bars blend history and innovation.

So next time you go to a cocktail bar in Chicago, go in with an open mind and enjoy every sip. An unforgettable experience awaits!


Chicago has a booming cocktail scene! We’ve explored some of the best bars with unique atmospheres and signature drinks. But one place stands out – The Aviary! In Fulton Market, it has a mixology experience like no other. Creative drinks made with science and culinary arts – each visit is special!

We’ve only seen a glimpse of what Chicago has to offer. Speakeasies, rooftop lounges, or classic old-fashioned – there’s something for everyone! As Charles Joly said, cocktails are like people: complex and layered. Every bar in Chicago has a unique story to tell!

So, on your journey around the Chicago cocktail scene, don’t forget to explore and discover new favorites. Raise your glass to the mixology, innovation, and camaraderie that make Chicago’s culture special! Cheers!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are some of the best cocktail bars in Chicago?

A: Some of the best cocktail bars in Chicago include The Aviary, The Violet Hour, Lost Lake, and The Berkshire Room.

Q: What type of cocktails can I expect at these bars?

A: These bars offer a wide range of cocktails, ranging from classic favorites like Old Fashioned and Martini to unique and creative concoctions crafted by skilled mixologists.

Q: Do these bars serve non-alcoholic drinks as well?

A: Yes, most of these cocktail bars offer non-alcoholic options like mocktails and alcohol-free spirits for those who prefer not to consume alcohol.

Q: How would you describe the ambiance at these cocktail bars?

A: The ambiance at these cocktail bars varies, but they generally offer a sophisticated and trendy atmosphere. Some have a vintage speakeasy vibe, while others have a modern and sleek design.

Q: Are reservations required to visit these cocktail bars?

A: It is recommended to make reservations, especially during peak hours or weekends, as these bars can get crowded. However, some also accept walk-ins depending on availability.

Q: What are the average prices for cocktails at these bars?

A: The prices for cocktails at these bars can range from $12 to $20, depending on the establishment and the complexity of the drink. Some bars also offer happy hour specials or discounted prices during certain times.

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